Systems 1 to 4

According to Rensis Likert the best managers in business and government point to a much more effective system of management.

Low efficiency departments have supervisors who, being job centred, keep workers busy through a prescribed work cycle at a satisfactory time rate. The job is reduced to component parts, with trained people to do them, and constant pressure to achieve output using all the resources available.

High efficiency departments have supervisors who, being people centred, focus on the human aspects and build effective work groups pursuing high achievement goals. The supervisors attempt to know employees as individuals. They give general rather than detailed supervision, with overall targets rather than prescribing methods. They accept maximum participation in decision making and see employees as capable of joining in the decision making processes.

Likert suggests four systems of management (by ideal types).

System 1:
Exploitive authoritative
Management uses fear and threats; communication is top down with most decisions taken at the top; superiors and subordinates are distant.
System 2:
Benevolent authoritative
Management uses rewards; , information flowing upward is restricted to what management wants to hear and whilst policy decisions come from the top some prescribed decisions may be delegated to lower levels, superiors expect subservience lower down.
System 3:
Management offers rewards, occasional punishments; big decisions come from the top whilst there is some wider decision making involvement in details and communication is downward whilst critical upward communication is cautious.
System 4:
Participative group management
Management encourage group participation and involvement in setting high performance goals with some economic rewards; communication flows in all directions and is open and frank with decision making through group processes with each group linked to others by persons who are members of more than one group called linking pins; and subordinates and superiors are close. The result is high productivity and better industrial relations.

A manager and supervisor should always adapt behaviour to take account of actual employees, adapting general principles to expectations, values and skills they have. Organisations should generate the conditions which encourage every manager to deal sensitively with them.

Whilst it is possible to have job centred, tough management, that can achieve high productivity through systems of control there will still be unfavourable them and us attitudes amongst employees towards work and management, with a higher labour turnover and greater labour and management conflict.

Social scientists help obtain objective measurements in organisations of such variables as:

This is the interaction-influence system (between employees and organisation), and why it is improving or deteriorating and what is required to improve matters. Objective information, the authority of facts has to come from the social scientist's tools, so that an enhanced human behaviour based law of the situation (originally Mary Parker Follett) is revealed for the purposes of action.

An organisation should have an integrative unity where what happens matters to the individual and what matters to the organisation are as one. This is System 4.


Pugh, D. S., Hickson, D. J., Hinings, C. R. (eds.) (1971), Writers on Organizations, Second Edition, London: Penguin, 146-151 (sections).

Refers to:

Likert, R. (1961), New Patterns of Management, McGrawHill.

Likert, R. (1967), The Human Organization: Its Management and Value, McGrawHill.